The Unofficial Guide to Transitioning to a New Doctor

While Peter Capaldi has technically already made his debut as the Twelfth Doctor, for many fans the transition from Matt Smith to Capaldi isn’t entirely finished yet. That is set to change in just under a month, as Deep Breath will be airing (officially) on our television screens for the first time. This a crucial time for many Whovians; Whovians who became part of the fandom thanks to Smith’s and Moffat’s work over the last couple of years.

The transition can be rather jarring, as the change is one of the most drastic in Doctor Who’s storied history. Lucky for you, dear reader, we’re here to help you make the transition as easily as possible, with some tips and insights from those who’ve experienced this kind of thing before.

Grieve and Move On


Ok, I said it and now it’s out there for all of you to read it (and I’m talking to myself as much as anyone else!). The time has come to let Matt go. Sure, for many fans and plenty of my fellow Americans, Matt Smith was THE Doctor, the first face this face saw and all of that stuff. His run was magnificent and it’s sad to see him go on to different endeavors, but that’s what Doctors do and it’s what the show needs to continually “regenerate” and keep itself new. Baker left, Tennant left, and now Smith has left. It happens. So raise one last bowl of fish fingers and custard in memoriam, and say goodbye. After all, it’s not forever. Smith will be back for multi-doctor stories down the road and you can revisit all the previous adventures he was a part of during his reign.

Don’t Expect Capaldi to be the Same Kind of Doctor


The single biggest mistake you can make is going into Series 8 under the impression that Capaldi is going to be Matt Smith, only older and Scottish. Moffat has been telling us since the moment that Capaldi was announced as Smith’s successor to expect the unexpected; that it’s time for the old beast to snarl at you a bit. That’s a good thing! While Smith was different from Tennant in many ways, the dashing, young Doctor motif and all the romance that accompanied it was fairly consistent in both 10 and 11’s time.

You don’t take Capaldi to the cinemas around the world unless you’re sure that you’re sitting on a magnificent episode

This isn’t to say that Capaldi won’t ever have a romantic moment or two (it would be great to see how River Song gets on with Capaldi’s Doctor…just saying!), but the day where you believe the Doctor and his companion might hook up are over for now. First of all, because we’ve seen enough of that for the time being. Secondly, because this Doctor is going to be more alien than the humanistic Tennant and Smith Doctors and it doesn’t fit that role very well. But do expect moments of humour along the way. The Doctor has always, whether darker or at the other end of the spectrum, been a bit funny.

From all accounts, that’s not going to change.

Watch the Whole of Series 8!


The second biggest mistake you can make is to watch Deep Breath next month and decide that you don’t like Capaldi as the Doctor and quit watching the series altogether. While most post regeneration episodes become classics (Tom Baker’s Robot or Matt Smith’s The Eleventh Hour, for example), sometimes the new Doctor stumbles out of the gate a bit (Colin Baker’s Doctor choking Peri, anyone?). Granted, there is no reason to expect any missteps. Moffat has a proven record and you don’t take Capaldi to the cinemas around the world unless you’re sure that you’re sitting on a magnificent episode. The point, though, is that even with a terrific opener there is still the opportunity for lingering doubt. While we all collectively go through our “Rose in The Christmas Invasion” phase, there will come a point for each of us (and probably not at the same time or episode) where we smack our heads and say, “Of course, Capaldi’s the Doctor!”

Because there is no guarantee that will happen during Deep Breath, you’d be doing yourself a great disservice by not seeing the debut series in its entirety before making your final opinion of Capaldi. His Doctor will evolve from his first scene in the series opener through the two-part finale in November. Unless you hang on for the whole ride, you’ll never truly get the sense of who the Capaldi Doctor is. Like Eccleston, Tennant, Smith, and all the classics before them, Capaldi deserves the chance to win you over. The Doctor almost always does in the end.

In the end it really all comes back down to you. All of the effort and craftsmanship that Moffat, Capaldi, and the rest of the crew have put forth is for you. The best advice we can give you is to receive it and be open. It’s still Doctor Who, just maybe not the Doctor you’ve been expecting.


“That’s bacon! Are you trying to poison me?” And from that line on, I’ve been unable to stop watching, reading, musing about the Doctor. As a recent transplant to the Whoniverse, I’ve been trying to soak up as much Who-related knowledge as possible. That journey has taken me from the Tenth Planet to the Fields of Trenzalore and gently set me at the edge of my seat for what’s next. It’s an honor to be here and I plan to bring a unique perspective. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey alongside me.

'The Unofficial Guide to Transitioning to a New Doctor' have 12 comments

  1. July 29, 2014 @ 8:22 am TonyS

    I’m not sure I would call “Robot” a classic… “The Eleventh Hour” either, for that matter.

    In fact the only post-regeneration stories I would call classics are “Power of the Daleks” and “Spearhead from Space”.

    Look at the list. “Power of the Daleks”; “Spearhead from Space”; “Robot”; Castrovalva”; “The Twin Dilemma”; Time & The Rani”; “That Movie Thing”; “Rose”; “The Christmas Invasion” and “The Eeleventh Hour”. Fine stories (most of them). But I think classic is a bit of a stretch.


    • July 29, 2014 @ 10:15 am Rick

      I’m with you on “Robot”. It’s fun, but no classic.


    • July 29, 2014 @ 10:26 am TonyS

      I see I have referred to “The Eeleventh Hour”. This version involves fish!


  2. July 29, 2014 @ 11:02 am Ranger

    Eel fingers and custard anyone?!


  3. July 29, 2014 @ 12:05 pm simon magellan

    Capaldi has already said his Doctor doesn’t appear fully formed, as he himself is still growing into the part. This is always the case – the first Pertwee, for example, is much more humorous than he later became, Troughton is generally thought not to have become really comfortable with the role until The Moonbase, and so on.

    As for the 11th Hour – actually I really enjoyed that one and it is one of only three Smith eps I have been able to watch repeatedly (Asylum and Name being the other two). Always felt that the rest of the series afterwards failed to match its promise.


    • July 29, 2014 @ 12:28 pm TonyS

      The Doctor in “Power of the Daleks” is a disturbing and a rather creepy character. “Highlanders” and “Underwater Menace” show two different Doctors, neither of whom are quite how we remember Pat Troughton. I would agree that it is probably “Moonbase” before he finds his character.

      I like “The Eleventh Hour”. In fact I like it a lot. But I worry that the word “classic” gets used a lot and am not sure that Matt Smith’s debut quite merits the term “classic”


  4. July 29, 2014 @ 9:26 pm Jon

    Interesting article and plenty of sense. With all respect to Chris Eccleston we’ve since had 91 episodes of wonderful Doctor Who but where the Doctor has consistently been a charismatic young chap with some interesting quirks and an amazing hit-rate with highly attractive young ladies (I feel a certain envy). This is going to be different and that may grate with some people. It is a gamble; but I think it was the right call – great as those 91 episodes (mostly) are – its needs to be different to remain fresh. But I’m not worried. This is the BBC’s flagship product that both makes and costs them a fortune – so they will be protective. But one constant throughout the re-boot has been the fantastic casting; I was initially amazed at Chris, alarmed at Billie and gob-smacked by Katherine – and yet they were all fantastic. You couldn’t have started with Malcolm Tucker in 2005 but I think he’s going to perfect for this second change of direction since the re-boot. Plus I’m much closer to Peter’s age than I was Matt’s so I’m going to find somebody being dapperly heroic in their mid-50s very affirming!


  5. July 29, 2014 @ 9:44 pm Binro the Heretic

    I’d say Eleventh Hour is a definite classic of the new era. The plot is not the greatest, but it achieves so much with so much style. New doctor, new companion complete with backstory, new TARDIS. All done brilliantly. It plays with time (quite rare in Who before Moff strangely) Matt nails the role from the first scene (and the scenes with Amelia are superb), then it rattles along merrily, casually sets up the season story arc, has a nice deus ex machina with the mobile phone, and Matt even gets his costume from a hospital in a nice nod to Pertwee. I love it. It’s sad we can’t see Power of the Daleks, but I’d say that only Spearhead comes close as a debut story.


  6. July 31, 2014 @ 6:06 pm Al

    One thing that’s very important to note with regards to the new Doctor changing over time is Deep Breath was also the first full episode Capaldi filmed as the Doctor. Very often, the first episode aired is not the first broadcast: Eleventh Hour, Rose, and Caves of Androzani are examples of stories that were filmed well after the actor had started to play the role on screen. So we’ll be seeing the new Doctor evolve, basically, in real time (as it appears the whole season may have been more or less shot in order, which if true is something we haven’t seen happen since the Tom Baker era). I fully expect the Capaldi Doctor of Episode 12 will be markedly different in many ways from the Capaldi Doctor of Deep Breath.

    As for the Doctor and Clara, although much has been made of Capaldi’s so-called “no flirting” edict (as if he could really “edict” anything. He’s just an actor, remember. He can give input but unless they put his name on the screen with “producer” next to it he can’t really do anything but give ideas), in another interview he states right out that love still exists between the two characters. I assume he refers to the same sort of love as we saw between the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane (especially given School Reunion confirming that Sarah fell in love with the Doctor). I hope they don’t retread the Martha Jones scenario, where you had a companion utterly in love with the Doctor, but the Doctor being oblivious to this (in Martha’s case due to the Doctor still pining for Rose). But, unless they’re going to establish that the new Doctor has total amnesia of his past lives, they’re going to have to address the fact Eleven fell for Clara and the feeling was mutual, if they’re going to proceed with Clara as a long-term companion. (Notice we haven’t heard anything about Jenna leaving the series, so fingers crossed I hope that means she’s back for Series 9).


    • July 31, 2014 @ 6:07 pm Al

      I must correct myself (unfortunately no Edit function is provided). Of course, I meant to say “Castrovalva” as an example of an episode filmed out of order, not Androzani which came at the end of Davison’s time.


  7. August 4, 2014 @ 8:16 pm dschram

    Since this is a whole new set of regenerations it makes sense for the Doctor’s personality to get a reboot and not seem as human and more Gallifreyan. Remember that the actor himself is very familiar and will be very influenced by the classic Doctors that he grew up with. Also I think the Time Lords have done something to mess with him and there is going to be some kind of catch or issues to be dealt with that will gradually reveal themselves.


Tell us what you think!

© 2005-2014 Kasterborous. Theme Old Paper by